Localizing the medium, message and action : can community radio contribute to environmental education in Wakkerstroom?
The field of development communication has up until recently enjoyed little academic appraisal in the light of emerging environmental discourses within the sociological tradition. No more prevalent is such neglect than on the level of enquiry into the possible roles for community radio, in contributing meaningfully towards environmental education. Proponents of environmental education have to this date been sceptic about transmission pedagogies inherent in the mass media, yet no attempts have been made to consider the position occupied by community radio as alternative to mass media education. This is a pressing concern, since the accelerated development and expansion of this sector in South Africa provides widespread potential for radio initiatives to take up environmental education (in terms of both information transmission and action programmes), especially at the level of isolated rural communities. This study examines the possible reasons for such neglect, by drawing both on qualitative and quantitative approaches to expose and appease the orientations exhibited from the fields of community radio and environmental education. By considering how both fields are inherently critically-inclined and by drawing on the views of an exploratory sample of 45 participants in the Wakkerstroom district, it argues that community radio, as development communication, could provide a meaningful context and multiple roles for the facilitation of environmental education in that locality . Broader calls for the use of such a medium are also reinforced by a discussion on the pressing environment and development challenges facing the study area . Throughout its theoretical discussion the study surfaces emerging themes. The most significant of these state that community radio 's local modus operandi, its valuing in principle of action , its call for specificity in broadcast approach, its inherent status quo-challenging temperament, its unique ability to harness interpersonal social interactions and its opportunity to build a sense of community and collaboration on environmental matters , provides for a meaningful context in which to house action and experientially-geared environmental education processes. All these arguments are seen to compliment existing views held on the media and environmental education, by the study's exploratory sample. By repeatedly positioning the two fields within a framework of socially-critical methodology, the study suggests that future initiatives in environmental education should be receptive to grassroots calls for using community radio as an alternative to generalized media broadcasting approaches, in which specific and local contexts could facilitate understandings on environment and development matters. It closes with a broad agenda for such further initiatives, by emphasizing the need to build network, organizational and research links between these two fields.